I hate having to say this. It hurts because I wanted to love this series so much. But, in the end, the most recent run of the chronically stalled Young Avengers series (written by Kieron Gillen) has been bitterly disappointing. To the point that any new revivals of the series will be met with a much needed suspicion.
My biggest problem with the series has been Billy Kaplan. His characterization has been atrocious throughout this series (though there are some arguments to be made that this trend started with Children’s Crusade). Though his character is not absolutely dependent on his romantic relationship with Teddy Altman, his characterization revolves around that relationship. This point is best illustrated in the climatic final confrontation with Mother. On his own, Billy cannot defeat her. It is only when Teddy comes to him and redeclares his love that Billy is able to become the Demiurge.
On one hand, this is a wonderful moment for LGBT representation in comics (as is the later revelation that all on the team save for, maybe, Kate Bishop are shades of LGB). But on the other, when is it a good idea to limit a character’s growth to their romantic partners?
Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that Billy exactly grows as a character during this series. Except, of course, he does come back to the superhero life.
Teddy Altman is problematic in a lot of ways. Personally, I feel his personality darkens considerably. While unintentional, I feel that there is a manipulative element in his interactions with Billy. Maybe when Loki intimates that Billy created Teddy to be his ideal boyfriend, he hit closer to home, but still missed the mark?
The new Young Avengers series is the story, ultimately, of Loki’s redemption after killing his genuinely heroic reincarnation. His confessional breakdown is, perhaps, the best written scene in the entire run. The emotional impact is undeniable. Gillen gets Loki. Pity the other characters don’t get nearly that level of understanding.
America Chavez comes close to getting that level of understanding, if only on a more subtle level. She depicts herself as a hard, experienced, no nonsense superhero. But behind that tough exterior is a young woman meeting her god (Billy) and learning that he is not what she thought he was. This is great characterization.
I’ve gone on about my dislike for the overall plot of the series. Mother is a rather ridiculous antagonist. That her menace lasts so long is frustrating. What happens to the team during their months long exile from Earth? Aren’t there stories to be told here?
At points, Young Avengers does hit a level of coolness that goes beyond the average comic book. But too often that potential is hampered by a bitterly uninteresting plot. Rather than one long (fifteen issue) story arc, the series should have been composed of shorter and more frenetic, action packed arcs.
In the end, it is hard to say that Marvel has handled Young Avengers well. It may well be years before a return to Young Avengers as an actual ongoing. But this time, I’m going to be far more cautious in my enthusiasm.